Time and time again we hear the phrase “You must compromise to get what you want”, or “Compromise with the other side to further your agenda.” According to a Gallup poll in 2017, 44% of Republican voters and 62% of Democrat votes favor compromises between political parties in Washington. And why would that be surprising? We are brought up to believe that compromises are good, a sort of “both sides win” agreement.
We make compromises with our siblings when we’re growing up. My brother and I are sharing a full size chocolate chip cookie. I want to cut the cookie (so I can give myself a bigger slice) but my brother wants to be the one to cut it too (most likely for the same reason). We compromise by having my brother cut the cookie but I get to pick the half I want – incentiving him to make the cut as equal as possible.
A more historical compromise was the Missouri Compromise. In 1819, the territory of Missouri requested admission into the Union as a slave state, meaning slavery would be legal and practiced within its limits. However, admission of a new slave state would disrupt the current balance between the slave and free states that the Union had already created. The agreement, now known as the Missouri Compromise, was to admit Missouri as a slave state but also to admit the state of Maine as a free state.
That may seem admirable, but to the anti-slave supporters, a state was still admitted into their country which would promote, protect and encourage slavery, the very opposite of what they deem moral and acceptable.
The anti-slavery supporters didn’t win with that compromise. If anything, they lost horribly. If you’re whole cause is to suppress and reject the practice of slavery, how could you ever deem a state allowing slavery to be acceptable? Was the admission of Maine (even as a free state) into the Union worth the enslavement of other human beings down in Missouri?
My only use for addressing this point is that points are more evident when you use slavery as an example. There is a clear black and white line of what is “okay” and what isn’t okay. If the anti-slavery supporters really believed in what they were fighting for (and I am in no way say they didn’t), then they would not have settled for a compromise of this sort, allowing the emergence of a state directly against their cause. Evidence that supporters really did believe in their cause is illustrated in events such as Bleeding Kansas and furthermore in the Civil War.
This issue can be found again in modern politics, maybe even more so. The Republican sits next to the Democrat in the Senate who is advocating for a $100M budget increase via income tax to help aid public education. The Republican is against that – “That should be the states’ job, not the federal government’s,” he says. “But the states aren’t able to,” the Democratic senator replies, and lists multiple reasons why.
Whether the reasons are accurate, justified or practical is irrelevant. The Republican senator continues to retort and the two senators argue for weeks. Finally, an agreement, a compromise, is arrived upon where the two decided on only a $50M increased aid package for public schools. The Republican gets to tell his supporters “he tried, but there was nothing else he could do, but at least it’s $50M and not $100M!”, and the Democratic supporter gets to claim a public school aid package was instituted in his name. Both side’s supporters are happy and the $50M increased is injected into the federal budget.
Here’s the problem: The federal government just got $50M bigger. This is a problem for more Constitutional Republicans and Libertarians like myself. If your core believe if that the government should not interfere with state schooling, why would it even be okay for you to compromise on that issue?
If you believe that killing innocent people is wrong, and a rogue senator proposes that the federal government needs to kill 1,000,000 innocent civilians to “decrease overpopulation”, would it even be morally acceptable for you to “compromise” to only kill 500,000 innocent civilians? Or 100,000? Or even 1?
Compromises are weak and demonstrates a moral fragility that is constantly lurking below our claims. Whether it be a human rights issue, economic issue or personal issue – you believe in these things for a reason, and compromising on them just illustrates you either 1) don’t truly believe in them or 2) are so weak in your beliefs that you can’t even defend them to their end.
Are there times to compromise? Rarely, if any. If you believe in something, defend it and don’t back down. Be open for discussion, but if you believe you are right, then that’s where you stand your ground. It would be better for you to be convinced completely of the other side than concede your position with a banal treaty.
For all the social messaging in today’s world telling everyone not to “compromise yourself”, it’s surprising that this weak minded thought process runs rampant in today’s political decisions.